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David Tlale uncut: Our exclusive interview with South African rising fashion icon before he jets for New York Fashion Week

Africa comes to back to the 2010 Spring/Summer Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week! And in a big way! Bringing it, is David Tlale, Designer of the Year at the 2009 Arise Africa Fashion Week.

David Tlale

And David is calling it “Cultural Intimacy”, his 12 piece collection that he will premiere under the Promenade tents at Bryant Park.

David Tlale2

We caught up with David in Johannesburg, South Africa as he was literally on his way to the airport to catch his flight to New York City! In between last minute purchases, David talked about his passion and what the audience should expect to see of his collection on the runways of New York City fashion week this coming Friday… Hey David! Gosh, congratulations are in order for you! Designer of the Year and now you will be debuting at the 2010 Spring/Summer Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week!

David Tlale: Thank you! We are very excited that the David Tlale brand has expanded across South Africa and across Africa and now coming to the U.S. It is great to see that people are so receptive to the brand because fashion is a difficult thing, in that people tend to be brand loyal. They love what they see and feel so it is good to see that people gravitate so well to the brand and it is resonating extremely well with them! Your work has certainly ignited and excited a lot of people! We mentioned you recently on Facebook and one of our fave Facebook friends, Tselane Tambo was extremely complimentary of your work…

David Tlale: Oh wow! That’s exciting and good to know that the brand is really growing and expanding beyond even our imagination! Your designs are dramatic and you are bold with textiles and colors. What inspires your work?

David Tlale: I am inspired by how I would like to see women dress! I always think that if I were a girl, a woman how would I dress, what would I wear. I do not like to see a badly dressed woman. So my inspiration comes from a place that wants to see girls, women look beautiful, sexy and appealing. Number one for me is that if a woman who is a wearing blouse enters a room, people should be asking, “Where did you get that blouse? I have to have one of those!” That David Tlale design is going to stand out for you but hard to find! So this inspires my work and with that we embrace femininity in all its total forms. David here you are, on your way to the Big Apple. Love New York City! You are debuting at THE Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York City! How are you feeling, what’s going through your mind?

David Tlale: [laughs] Oh, for sure butterflies in my stomach! Super, super scared! I mean I have showcased in Paris, Washington DC & New York City, off site though so I have done the global thing. But this is major because I will be working with people I have never worked with before, supermodels will be walking for my showing. So it is a little nerve wrecking. I mean I am showing in the same tents with some of my fashion idols, Ralph Lauren, Caroline Herrera! So it’s daunting somewhat and very humbling to realize that buyers, fashion editors will be reviewing the collection to see if the brand is worth what we believe it is.  So we tried to get some pictures of the pieces you will be showing in New York City to give our readers a taste of all the excitement that is surrounding your fashion line…dude nothing!

David Tlale: [laughs] Yeah, no way! We want to keep the element of surprise and excitement high enough so that show time is a unique experience that you can say that “this was truly a David Tlale moment” – that’s eternal!  Fair enough, but we still think that anytime we see your designs, it is as you put it “a truly David Tlale moment!” Ok, so what should buyers, fashion editors, VIP’s, the  Anna Wintours of this world, the African glitterati that will be at the showing, expect to see?

David Tlale: We have to make a statement with 12 pieces and we those 12 pieces we have to tell a story, a compelling one that will enable all those people that you named embrace David Tlale. So the theme of the collection is called “Cultural Intimacy”  which symbolizes my East Rand heritage and it is a strong and bold collection. So you will see understated natural, earth-toned colors that richly reflect Africa, like beige, gold, black, burnt orange, cream, bronze. You will also see traditional Ndebele geometric patterns in terms of motif and not the vibrant colors. Also we use ostrich eggshell beads from the Kalahari which date back 27,000 to 30,000 years. For fabrics you will see chiftons, satin, silk and alot of natural fibers like brocades, printed & mesh silks…a rich fusion to reflect different African cultural influences.  How exciting! Cannot wait to see your collection! U.S First Lady, Michelle Obama is a undoubtedly a fashion icon! She also likes to use up and coming designers like yourself. So if she asked, which one of your 12 pieces would you put her in?

David Tlale: Wow, I would definitely put her in one of our chic and timeless David Tlale pieces! So hard to pick one from the 12 we are showing in New York because each one is unique and would do very well on First Lady Michelle Obama. She has the grace and the look that it would not be difficult to dress her. The show stopper piece would be great and fun for her, it has a coiffured bust line with embellishments! Nice! David, what does it mean to you to have the support & backing of Dr. Precious Moloi Motsepe, Executive Chairperson of African Fashion International and Arise Magazine founder & CEO, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena?

David Tlale: Oh it is so amazing and humbling! I mean Dr. Precious took designers that showed so much potential under her wings to groom & prepare us for the global stage. Does not get better than that! For Dr. Precious and Mr. Nduka to invest in the brand is very humbling but it also puts enormous pressure to deliver. I am aware that designers are made or broken in New York fashion week. And as an African designer there is the added pressure to break down stereotypes about Africa and educate the world about the Africa that we know. So it’s not about the typical leopard prints. We looked at global spring and summer trends and infused different cultural elements such as ostrich eggshell beads, Ndebele geometry for example in the collection without comprising the global fashion trends. I find that there is more responsibility on us younger designers than the established designers… Earlier you mentioned that you would be working with supermodels, can you tell us which supermodels will be walking for you?

David Tlale: Well Jan Malan is the show producer and he has been there since Monday and is largely responsible for this. Tomorrow when I arrive, we start casting models and I am excited about seeing who will be selected! So what are the next steps after the showing?

David Tlale: I am coming to New York City with an open mind but we are ready for business. I am staying longer in New York City so we are ready to meet with potential buyers because I think the brand is ready for the global stage. We produce quality products and we work with an amazing manufacturing company in South Africa. There is so much excitement surrounding African designers, where do you think the African industry is heading?

David Tlale: Well, I think that African designers are now looking at fashion in a global sense. Designers are not only looking at their craft as a career or hobby but as a business. For most of us, it is the business of fashion. And South Africa is fast becoming a serious place for fashion, particularly African fashion.  Unfortunately, historically fashion has not been the number one priority for Africans so the need to support African designers is now greater than ever before!  Last two! Which designers are you hoping to see during your stay in New York City?

David Tlale: If they are showing, I would love to see Oscar de la Renta, Alexander McQueen and Christian Dior. So I am not too sure if those collections will be showing, but it would be a treat to see those!  New York City is such a fun and energetic city! What are you planning on doing for fun? David has to play too, right? [smile]

David Tlale: [laughs] Parties, dining out. I love visiting the Meatpacking district and Soho whenever I come to New York City, so I am looking forward to discovering new restaurants. Of course I am looking forward to making new friends! Well you are officially a friend to the site!  David you rock! Thank you for being generous with your time and sharing with our readers your insights! Best, best, best with your showing on Friday in New York City!

David Tlale: Of course! You are most welcome! Ciao! Safe travels David! Cheers!

2009 Arise Africa Fashion Week – David Tlale showcase

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Photo: Simon Deiner for SDR Photography

mabuza – who has written posts on Farai Today.

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  • Zee Mabuza

    These designs are on point!! esp. the jumpsuit on the 2nd row!
    I also recognise the South African contestant from Miss Face of Africa!(2nd row 4th pic) Good to see her pursuing her modelling career further.

  • Suzgo

    I just love me some David, he is just Fabulous and a really good humble , human being , and he just knows how to make ALL woman look as good as they feel. Keep rising David!

  • Nickymalatji

    hi my name is Nicky i am so loving and into Cat Walk, please help me find some designers that i can show case their clethes on fashion shows, i know David Tlale you are a busy man but please if you can help, my e-mail is thank you.